This is the best coconut cake ever. It has coconut inside the cake, a cream cheese frosting, and then beautifully toasted coconut on the outside. Even people I know who don't like coconut say they love it!
The best coconut cake has been given this name by many, as I served it at a restaurant I used to bake for for 11 years. It's tender, moist, and surprisingly so easy to make. And best of all it keeps fresh for days and days, not that it ever lasts that long.
If you love coconut, my coconut tart with fresh peaches is also a delicious and light dessert. Or my easy almond coconut granola and my lemon coconut cookies with white chocolate chips are both very popular!
WHAT MAKES THIS THE BEST COCONUT CAKE
LOADED WITH DIFFERENT KINDS OF COCONUT- This cake has, coconut milk, sweetened shredded coconut and coconut flakes for all different hints of coconut.
EASY TO MAKE- This cake starts with a box mix which makes it both quick and super foolproof to make. But you'll never guess it with the incredible flavor.
MOIST & TENDER- With the addition of pudding and coconut to this cake, it is so moist. It's so pillowy soft and tender.
- Yellow Cake Mix- You need this mix as a base, but will not follow the recipe on the back.
- Vanilla Pudding Mix- You want to make sure it's not cook & serve or sugar free, those will not yield the same results.
- Eggs- Using room temperature eggs is key.
- Unsweetened Coconut Milk- This is the kind you find in a can in the asian section, not the kind in the fridge. You can substitute with regular milk if you need to.
- Oil- I use canola, but coconut oil would be great also.
- Sweetened Shredded Coconut- If you can't find sweetened, unsweetened will work fine. Make sure it's shredded though, the flakes are too large for the cake.
- Cream Cheese- Make sure this is room temperature before you begin making the frosting so you're sure not to have any lumps.
- Flaked Coconut- I love the look of the thicker flakes on the outside, but shredded is fine if you prefer not to buy two kinds of coconut.
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS
STEP ONE: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of 3 eight inch round cake pans with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
STEP TWO: In a large mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, mix cake mix, instant pudding, eggs, coconut milk (stir before adding), and oil for about 2-3 minutes on medium speed. Fold coconut in.
STEP THREE: Divide and evenly pour between 3 cake pans and smooth the top with a spatula. This becomes about 390g or 13.75 ounces in each pan.
STEP FOUR: Bake for about 25 minutes,or until the cake no longer jiggles and the middle bounces back when very lightly pressed. It should be a light golden brown along the top and sides. Cool for about 15-30 minutes in the pans before putting on a cooling rack.
HOW TO MAKE THE FROSTING
Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, coconut milk and a pinch of salt. Beat just until combined and fluffy. Make sure not to over mix. Add a little bit more powdered sugar or coconut milk as needed to get your desired consistency.
HOW TO TOAST THE COCONUT
Melt a teaspoon of butter in a large frying pan. Once melted add coconut and stir over low-medium heat until starting to turn light brown. Be careful not to burn. When finished toasting pour onto a piece of wax paper or paper towel to cool.
HOW TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE
Place one of the cake layers, top side up, on a cake plate or serving stand. Spread a small amount of frosting over the first layer. Place the second cake layer, top side up, on top of the frosting. Repeat spreading a small amount of frosting again over the second layer. Place final cake layer, top side down.
Frost the entire cake, top and sides, with a thin crumb coat layer of the cream cheese frosting. Place in the fridge or freezer for about 10-15 minutes to chill. Pull the chilled cake out, and frost the cake with the remaining frosting.
Cover the whole cake with the toasted coconut.
EXPERT BAKING TIPS
Cakes will have the best results if made with room temperature ingredients. I like to pull my eggs, cream cheese, and butter out of the fridge an hour or two before I start baking.
Frosting a chilled cake is easier, therefore I usually put my cake layers in the freezer after baking and before frosting.
This cake can also be made in a 9x13, a 2 layer cake, or cupcakes. You will just need to alter the baking time depending.
No, your cake can stay at room temperature after finishing. I think keeping it at room temperature helps it stay more moist.
Cake layers will sometimes sink in the middle because they were not quite done baking. You want the whole top of the cake to have a very light golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the middle to come out with crumbs, but not wet batter.
Yes, if you don't like cream cheese frosting simply double the amount of butter and omit the cream cheese. It will taste fabulous either way.
STORING AND FREEZING
The best coconut cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days while remaining fresh. You can also store it in the fridge if you prefer to eat it cold.
After baking the cake layers, allow them to cool completely, then wrap them well in plastic wrap and stick each layer in a ziplock freezer bag. They can be frozen for a few months. I usually just pull them out of the freezer once I am starting to make my frosting, or an hour or two before I want to assemble.
If you would like to freeze your already assembled cake, simply wrap as best you can in plastic wrap, or in an airtight container and store in the freezer for 3-4 months.
OTHER POPULAR CAKE RECIPES TO TRY
Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream
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The Best Coconut Cake
- 1 box yellow cake mix (432g)
- 1 small box vanilla instant pudding mix not Sugar Free
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk canned, like Taste of Thai
- ½ cup canola oil
- 1½ cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 8 oz cream cheese softened
- ½ cup butter room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1-2 tablespoon unsweetened coconut milk
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup shredded or flaked coconut toasted
To make the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of 3 eight inch round cake pans with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, mix cake mix, instant pudding, eggs, coconut milk (stir before adding), and oil for about 2 minutes on medium speed. Fold coconut in.
- Divide and evenly pour between 3 cake pans and smooth the top with a spatula. This becomes about 390g or 13.75 ounces in each pan.
- Bake for about 25 minutes,or until the cake no longer jiggles and the middle bounces back when very lightly pressed. It should be a light golden brown along the top and sides. Cool for about 15-30 minutes in the pans before putting on a cooling rack.
- I like to wrap cake layers in saran wrap and freeze before frosting. When ready to make frosting pull the cakes out and let them start to defrost.
To make the frosting:
- Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth.
- Add powdered sugar, vanilla, coconut milk and a pinch of salt. Beat just until combined and fluffy. Make sure not to over mix.
- Add a little bit more powdered sugar or coconut milk as needed to get your desired consistency.
To toast coconut:
- Melt a teaspoon of butter in a large frying pan. Once melted add coconut and stir over low-medium heat until starting to turn light brown. Be careful not to burn. When finished toasting pour onto a piece of wax paper or paper towel to cool.
To assemble cake:
- Place one of the cake layers, top side up, on a cake plate or serving stand. Spread a small amount of frosting over the first layer.
- Place the second cake layer, top side up, on top of the frosting. Repeat spreading a small amount of frosting again over the second layer.
- Place final cake layer, top side down.
- Frost the entire cake, top and sides, with a thin crumb coat layer of the cream cheese frosting. Place in the fridge or freezer for about 10-15 minutes to chill.
- Pull the chilled cake out, and frost the cake with the remaining frosting.
- Cover the whole cake with the toasted coconut.
I hate to be one of those people that asks if you can use a substitute for an ingredient. I really want to make this cake. I only have a boxed white cake mix should I go out to the store to buy a yellow cake mix. Will it make or break this recipe if I use the white cake mix? I can’t wait to make this!!! I made your sugar cookie recipe, oh my goodness girl, they are the absolute BEST sugar cookie I have ever had. Even my oldest daughter who doesn’t like sugar cookies of any kind said they were amazing!!! I’ve got your carrot cake in the oven right now. I can’t wait to serve it for Easter, that is if I don’t eat it all before then! Lol!
Yes Lindsay, a white box would work. I prefer a yellow, but I don't know how hard getting to the store is for you and if that's worth it to you or not. And so glad about the sugar cookies!!
I absolutely love this cake and am planning on making it for my husband's birthday but all the stores near me have been wiped out of cream cheese. Is there another frosting/substitute you'd suggest for this?
I've heard that's happening some places.. crazy! I would say either a browned butter buttercream which is what I use on my carrot cake, or even a simple vanilla buttercream would be great too! Feel free to reach out with any more questions!
So I've tried making cakes like this before with a box mix and they have been a disaster. What box mix do you prefer to use to make it come out perfect?
Betty Crocker is my favorite, but I've also been happy with Duncan Hines. Those are the only two I use.
Making this for Easter today and can’t wait! One thing to clarify though - the nutrition info listed (the calories) is only for the cake right?
Sorry Krissy, it was supposed to be 16 servings, not 12. I switched it and added more than the calories for you if you want to know!
This looks so delicious and beautiful! I’m curious- my dad loves chocolate and coconut, any thoughts on using chocolate cake mix instead of yellow? Thank you for sharing!
I've never tried. If you were going to do that I was use a chocolate pudding as well to keep it all chocolate. You probably won't be able to get much coconut flavor out of it because chocolate is a stronger profile, but I'm sure it'll still taste good. But I will say this is really good as is. I love chocolate with coconut also, but this cake can't be beat!
This cake was so easy to make and SO good! It's our new favorite.
This is hands down my new favorite cake. I made it for Easter, but used sweetened shredded coconut for the toasted bits, and it turned out well. I made it this weekend for a birthday and substituted butter for the oil as I am trying to avoid certain oils, and it turned out great! This is my go to recipe when I want a cake to impress. It has gotten RAVE reviews each time I've made it. Sooooo good.
Thank you so much Lila! And I am so glad it worked just as well with the butter. Thanks for sharing!!
I made the cake for birthday this week. Everyone loved it. Even the non sweet people. Could you tell me what brand of coconut milk you use. I got the idea yours was a can when you said stir? I used silk unsweetened coconut milk and it was delicious. Just curious if you use something different.
so glad you liked it. I use a canned coconut milk, like taste of thai, but honestly any kind will work!
For those of us who love coconut this sounds like a crazy question - if I omit the coconut from the cake and frosting, will this end as a vanilla cake? I made as written and it was absolutely out of this world, but I have some non coconut lovers who are dying for a vanilla version.
Yes! just use regular or buttermilk instead of the coconut milk, and skip the coconut.
Could you do this cake recipe in a 9x13 pan 🍳 instead of three 8 inch rounds?
Yes, I can't give you exact baking times because I haven't done it recently, but I have before so I know it works great. Enjoy!!
did you end up making in a 9 X 13? If so how long did it take. Thinking of trying it in a 9X13 myself!
Planning on making this for my husbands birthday, can I use coconut oil in place of the canola oil?
I haven't ever tried it before, but I don't see why not!
The name is accurate. Best coconut cake ever. I will be making this for years to come.
Thank you so much!!! I've been making it for years also, and it's still our number one dessert.
Where can I find the shredded coconut. And do I use 9 inch pans
You cab find shredded coconut in the baking aisle. I use 8 inch pans, but 9 inch works great too!
This cake was so easy to make, looked beautiful and best of tasted delicious!
I’m so excited to make this for my family! Curious to know what other desserts you shared that were your best with the restaurant in California??
So far the only other recipes I've posted that were popular at Jake's were my lemon bars, double chocolate brownies and chocolate chunk cookies. I will continue to share a few more!
I live in Mexico and cannot fin vanilla pudding mix 🙁 Is there any way this can be substituted? I was planning on making it this weekend for my birthday and Lillie always posts about how good it is. I love coconut and I'm dying to try it.
Oh shoot! I have never tried substituting anything else. You could just omit it and add 1 tsp of vanilla extract for some extra vanilla flavor!
Thanks for sharing this .l am in Victoria Australia l am off to see if l can hunt down the pudding mix here fingers crossed . Will let you know 😊
Hi, wondering if this can still be made easily just using 2 cake rounds and dividing equally between the two instead of 3? Went and bought cake rounds but all I could find were deep cake rounds and 3 would make a tower lol 😂
Yes, two should be totally fine. You'll just need to cook them a bit longer!
My husband's favorite new birthday cake!
I'm so happy to hear that!! It is my husbands also!
Would it alter the cake if I used a gluten free cake mix?
I haven't ever tried it with a GF cake mix before, but I assume you could try it. The ratios of eggs, coconut milk and oil might need to be different though.
Have you ever tried this recipe for cupcakes? I loved it so much as a cake.
Yes, many times! It works great!
Absolutely delicious! Super easy to follow. And I’ve never had such a great tasting cake before!
Thank you so much!! I love hearing this!
The word BEST is in the title for a reason - because it's the TRUTH! This recipe is the perfect blend of being not insanely sweet, perfectly fluffy, it has the precise amount of coconut and just all around it's a 10/10! I made cupcakes with this recipe and two people who said "I don't eat coconut cake" absolutely crushed the cupcakes and said they were heavenly and they're now a fan!! Brooke's recipes are all top notch and so, so delicious!
Super yummy! My family all loved this cake. Very moist and has a great flavor but it tasted more like a yellow cake. I added everything according to the recipe so not sure if perhaps it was my ingredients or if it should be more of a mild coconut flavor? We loved it regardless though but am curious for the next time I make it. The coconut milk I used was Unsweetened coconut milk by Goya. I could not find Taste of Thai.
Excited to make this! Should the toasted coconut for the outside of the cake be sweetened or unsweetened - unlike the other areas of the recipe which specify. I’m planning to use flakes, and have unsweetened ones - I am assuming that is right due to the toasting but would like to make sure. Thank you!
I use unsweetened flakes for the outside, but either would work great!
This was my first time making a cake and it came out absolutely amazing!! I served it for my dad’s birthday and my family said it was the best cake they’d ever had! Thank you again for another amazing recipe!
Thank you so much for trying it and leaving a review! Hope this starts a new love for cake making!
Is shringae normal? They came out of the oven full and risen and when cooked shrunk up. Suggestions?
Not sure what happened, My only guess would be that it wasn't done baking, but its hard to say for sure since I didn't actually see it. Hopefully it still tasted good.
This is my first time to bake coconut cake and I love the result, even my husband loves it; he’s not a cake person!
Thank you so much!! I am so happy it was a success!
Wow this cake was good!! I was a little reluctant because of all the hype, but it did not disappoint. The flavor and texture are phenomenal!! Really so good and comes together so quickly! I colored the coconut, before toasting it, to make a rainbow pride cake and it turned out awesome. Thanks for sharing this amazing recipe!
This cake looks amazing! I can't wait to try it! What is your favorite box cake mix to use? I live at a high altitude and sometimes my cakes don't turn out so well:)
I have used both Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines and they both work great. Because of high altitude I would suggest adding about 2 tbsp of flour with the cake mix. That should help!
Assembling this in an hour 😬 Nervous about getting the toasted coconut on the sides somewhat evenly. Any tricks? Just smash it in there?? 😅
Yes, I just push mine in while the frosting is fresh. It will be a bit messy if you want to do it over a cookie sheet to help keep the fallen coconut contained! Enjoy!!
Would love to make this cake but need to ask what the equivalent is of vanilla pudding here in Ireland? Also would it make a difference if I opted to make a standard sponge mixture instead of the box cake mix?
Thanks in advance 😊 dying to make this cake
You could in fact skip the vanilla pudding and add 1 tbsp of vanilla extract to give it some additional flavor. As for the standard sponge mixture, I haven't tried it, so that's up to you, but it is very good with the cake mix. Enjoy!
Hi! Have you ever made these in to cupcakes? Think it would work if you haven’t? Thanks
Yes! It works perfectly!
This recipe was amazing as written. I halved it for a smaller cake and needed about 2/3 of the icing recipe. It was so easy and delicious - it’s a new favorite!
I'm so glad! Thank you so much for trying it!
This is truly the best coconut cake! I’m not an expert baker but I was amazed at how well this turns out every time! I’m trying new spins on it because we just love it so much! Thanks so much for this delicious recipe!
I need to make it as a “sheet cake”, so using the 9x13 pan. I saw in your notes where we can do that but the timings would be different. What would you suggest for the 2 layer 9x13 cake pan?
Are you going to cook it in one 9x13 and cut or bake in two separate 9x13 pans? That will affect the time a lot.